Philippines Eases Virus Curbs as Economy Stays in Recession

The Philippines will ease movement restrictions in the capital region and nearby areas as the economy struggles to crawl out of recession and as coronavirus infections ease from a peak in April.

Metro Manila and adjacent provinces, the nation’s economic engine, will shift to the second-lowest level of curbs called “general community quarantine” until end-May, the government said on Thursday. The Southeast Asian nation said it’s expecting 202 million vaccine doses to arrive this year.

Heightened restrictions will still be in place despite the shift to GCQ, presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said. Only essential travel into and out of the capital and surrounds will be allowed. Public transportation will remain operational at limited capacities and indoor dine-in services will be capped at 20% of venue or seating capacity while outdoor dining will be at 50%.

Meanwhile, all travelers coming from Oman and United Arab Emirates or those with travel history to these countries will be prohibited from entering the Philippines effective May 15-May 31, Roque said. Existing travel restrictions of passengers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are extended to end-May.

“I will not allow violations of the guidelines given by the task force,” President Rodrigo Duterte said in a televised briefing Thursday evening, adding that he will hold local governments responsible for any breaches. Religious festivals which usually draw crowds in summer will not be allowed, Duterte said.

With the vaccines expected this year from supply deals and the Covax facility, the nation expects to achieve herd immunity, vaccine czar Carlito Galvez said at the same briefing.

The Philippines posted a worse-than-expected economic contraction last quarter, with recent virus curbs dimming growth outlook for the year. Economic managers have pushed for further easing of restrictions to boost growth and restore jobs. Covid-19 cases were at 6,385 on Thursday, taking the total to about 1.12 million.

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